Nico Rosberg has gained his first pole position of het season. The German beat a quick Ricciardo and the two Ferrari’s. His teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton had another troublesome day and will start from pitlane tomorrow.
After two attempts to successfully implement a new qualifying format the teams principals and the Formula One Management decided to go back to the qualifying format of 2015. Most of the drivers were indifferent to either of the two types of qualifying since it didn’t made a big difference in terms of positions but ultimately it were the fans and the media that wanted a better show. So it was back to normal on Saturday.
Hamilton immediately went out on the grooved intermediate tire but quickly announced to the team that the track was indeed dry apart from some damp spots on the start finish straight.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein felt that the super soft tires were the right choice but when he turned up the straight to start his first timed lap he hit one of the two big damp spots and lost his footing and couldn’t regain control of his car. The car hit a bump in the wet, broke out and slid into the steel barrier, ending his qualifying attempt. In order to remove the car and some debris the red flag came out.
With 14 minutes left to go everyone got back out on the red walled super soft tires. Ferrari shot to the top of the leader board followed by Bottas, Sainz and Rosberg. Hamilton tried to put in a laptime but had an issue with the energy recovery system of his Mercedes engine forcing him back in the pits with no time set. The reigning world champion is having a poor weekend so far after receiving a 5 place grid penalty after changing a gearbox on Thursday. He’ll likely start from pitlane tomorrow.
When the checkered flag came out it were Renault and Sauber fighting to get out of the first elimination zone. Palmer didn’t improve his time set but Magnussen did so and jumped out of elimination, pushing Guttierez back in. In an ultimate attempt it were the boys from Sauber that improved there laptimes and jumped ahead of Magnussen and they both got through to Q2.
Elimination Q1: Wehrlein, Hamilton, Haryanto, Palmer, Guttierez, Magnussen.
In Q2 it was Rosberg who got out on the yellow walled soft tires and put in the fastest laptime thusfar. None of the other drivers were able to touch him even though they all opted the super soft tire. Late in the session both Vettel and Raikkonen came out on super softs to beat Rosberg’s laptime by little more than one tenth of a second.
When Q2 seemed to come to a conclusion as the drivers in the elimination zone were in their ultimate lap, the red flag came out again. Nico Hülkenberg’s left front wheel came off seemingly on its own. Hülkenberg had to park his Force India in the grass and ended the session then and there but secured a spot in Q1. The race directors ended the session since there was not enough time left to get out and start a timed lap.
Elimination Q2: Nasr, Ericsson, Grosjean, Button, Alonso, Massa.
Raikkonen put his Ferrari two tenths ahead of Rosberg after the first stint. Behind them it were Ricciardo and Kvyat in their Red Bulls. Vettel stayed in, saving a set of super softs for Sunday. Perez wasted his lap when he had his very own Wehrlein-esque moment when he hit that same bump on the straight but he managed to quickly regain control and continue the session.
With under two minutes left to go all drivers got out of the garages one more time and when the flag dropped it was Rosberg who squeezed out a 1:35.402 and gained his first pole position of the season. Daniël Ricciardo pulled off a little stunt to put his car on the front row ahead of both Ferrari’s. Both Vettel and Raikkonen made small mistakes and where unable to attack the time of Rosberg. Bottas took fifth place and has an outside shot at a podium place tomorrow. Any reliability issue for Ferrari could give Frank Williams a belated birthday gift on Sunday.
The youngsters of Toro Rosso couldn’t make a big impression with their engine lacking power compared to the other teams. Sainz and Verstappen managed to get eighth and ninth.
Rosberg will be the only one in the top ten starting on the soft tires whereas everyone else will start on the supersofts. The Chinese circuit is especially demanding of the tires so it will be interesting to see if Rosberg can gain an advantage of this strategy.
After the session the stewards punished Nico Hülkenberg for an unsafe release by putting him back 3 places on the grid. He’ll start tomorrows race behind Felipe Massa and both McLarens.
Results qualifying session Grand Prix of China
POS. NO. DRIVER TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
|2||3||DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING||1:37.672||1:36.815||1:35.917||13|
|6||26||DANIIL KVYAT||RED BULL RACING||1:37.719||1:36.948||1:36.399||14|
|7||11||SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA||1:38.096||1:37.149||1:36.865||15|
|8||55||CARLOS SAINZ||TORO ROSSO||1:37.656||1:37.204||1:36.881||15|
|9||33||MAX VERSTAPPEN||TORO ROSSO||1:38.181||1:37.265||1:37.194||15|
|10||27||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA||1:38.165||1:37.333||10|
Photo source: Mercedes Media.